In the new issue of Dime Magazine, we took a look at the best – and worst – the game has offered since the turn of the century. From the players to jerseys to sneakers to teams to even trends, you can relive the past 12 years by scooping up the new issue currently on newsstands nationwide. In those pages, you’ll find the following feature…
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You wouldn’t be reading, and we wouldn’t be writing about basketball if it weren’t a sport so easy to love. The players keep the game new but the undercurrents of tradition tie it to the legends who came before. The barriers of entry â€“ just a ball, really â€“ are so low it inspires anyone to pick it up and try to reach the dizzying ceiling of its stars can. It is timeless and under constant renovation at the same time. That persistent evolution isn’t just for show, though; it’s weeding out what can’t survive. The game isn’t perfect.
Since Dime was born, we’ve brought you as close as possible to the game we love. That doesn’t mean, however, that we haven’t kept track of what we’ve seen and the ways to make it better. These 10 trends since 2000 are things the game could do without.
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10. TEAM MOVING
The NBA exists because of the fans. Though ticket prices went up right after the lockout ended by 4 percent over 2011, while League Pass was only $3 less for 16 fewer games last season, the biggest injustice for the fans is having their team move away. Sacramento fans are only the latest to go through the kind of heartbreak Vancouver and Seattle fans also endured in the past 12 years. We don’t condemn the NBA for wanting to make money, but if there were a way to have the fans of the current city in mind as much as the promises of the city council from the wooing city, we’re all ears. How about, for example, of locking in teams to a guaranteed 15-year stay to start? The six years it took the Grizzlies to arrive and bolt from Vancouver certainly doesn’t strike us as a big enough sample size. One way to inspire confidence that the NBA is serious about it? Take Clay Bennett, the man behind the Sonics move, off the NBA Relocation Committee.
9. DUNK CONTEST/ALL-STAR WEEKEND
We need All-Star Weekend to mean something. With the dunk contest swinging between relevant and unwatchable more than an EKG reading, it’s time to correct it. Appealing to business senses might be the only way to get it that way. In short: let’s get the dunk contest back to Vince Carter-levels and the game itself to mean something. First, let’s change the dunk contest’s format by ditching the idea that fan voting should be the only vote, and reinstall a panel of star judges. Next, ditch Kenny “The Jet” Smith for a different MC. Smith’s peak was calling “It’s ova!” for Carter in Golden State. That was over a decade ago. How about we sign Spike Lee up instead? Most importantly, bring in an outside challenger to compete against the pros and put up a $1 million cash prize for the winner (it won’t be much to a superstar, but to mid-level dunkers, that’s a wad of cash). With pride and dollars on the line and the chance to see someone like the incredible Jus Fly take on the NBA, we’d see crazy imagination.
With the arena still buzzing a day after the dunks ended, the game would tip off with NBA Finals homecourt advantage on the line, too. You’re still going to get the same dunk display like every other All-Star Game this way, but the fourth quarter will mean more than just a token title.
8. HOLDING TEAMS, AND FANS, HOSTAGE
The free agency sagas of LeBron James and Dwight Howard aren’t groundbreaking. When players want out, they’ve let it be known before, such as Hakeem Olajuwon in the early ’90s, or Shaq in Orlando. There’s no way to quantify what we’ve seen since the mega free agency summer of 2010, but the degree to which star players have held their teams hostage has seemingly become worse since. The fans and the media aren’t immune either. They hyped that summer’s class and immediately declared 2013 the NEXT make-or-break summer.
When players know they have leverage, it’s a no-brainer to use it. The decision itself has never been the issue. If LeBron wanted to move on, he had every right to. It was “The Decision” to frame the choice on national TV that is worth taking issue over. In Howard’s case, his torturous nine-month saga has become a standoff whose dueling ineptitudes would fit well in “Blazing Saddles.” We want to believe, badly, that his reversals upon reversals are the exception of future player movement. With precedents like these though, and knowing the player will always be served first, it’s hard to imagine why the next disgruntled superstar would do anything different.
7. TECHNOLOGY’S DUMBER HALF
Hating on haters might seem like hypocrisy. In this case, it’s necessary. You are closer to players now than ever before by hearing their thoughts on Twitter and Facebook and seeing life through their eyes via Instagram and Twitpics (For instance, we now know every player is always out there #grinding). Unfortunately, it means you can be close enough to spit (virtually) directly on a player now, too. The rise of player hating has mirrored the technology that enables it â€” you no longer have to sit above the tunnel the teams walk out of to be heard. We’re not saying there is more vitriol than ever â€” please, we think there were plenty of anti-Bad Boy Pistons bashers in the early 1990s. But never before has it been so easy to see it all publicly. Do us a favor by finding your favorite player’s Twitter account after a game and search for their @ mentions. It’s the kind of stuff you scrape off your shoes. Having your eyes open to the problem means seeing two sides to it, however, and players can be just as irresponsible. Whether it’s been players firing back with their own unedited rejoinders or oversharing on the level of Greg Oden, technology opens up just as many problems for players as it does fans. “Got ’em” photos are totally cool in our book, though.
6. DRESS CODE
Russell Westbrook‘s outfits during the playoffs turned the conversation away from his decision-making as a point guard towards his questionable decisions in the dressing room. As much as we like levity with our basketball â€” this game is about fun, remember â€” the well intentioned, if transparently paternalistic NBA dress code imposed by Stern in 2005 has made recent dress-up a reason to laugh and worry. Did Westbrook actually say he sees better with glasses without lenses? And is he actually wearing shirts with teddy bears and fishhooks? Dwyane and LeBron, you know this isn’t an optometrist’s office where you look through lenses without correction, right? Why again was Nick Young dressed like the sun god in the first round against Memphis? Everyone seemed to be caught off guard by this trend, but now we should be trying to help. We think it’s hilarious how NBA players are playing by the book â€“ You want me to wear a suit, Stern? Here’s one made of green leather â€“ while subverting the cause, but now it’s gone to another level. Together, we can beat this â€” here Russell, here’s a solid-color polo shirt.
5. NBA TV PRESS CONFERENCES
A confession: NBA TV could be on the biggest tier of a cable package’s offerings â€” the one with the 50 movie channels you’ll only watch four of â€” and we’d still order it. It’s not solely because it shows actual games in the season. The Hardwood Classics, pre-game shows and Summer League broadcasts make clicking over to NBA TV like muscle memory. It isn’t perfect, however. The major issue that’s come to the fore recently is showing press conferences live after games. Even though we talk with the players all the time, any journalist could tell you the best time to chat is one-on-one. You get the raw emotions easier because even though we represent a national brand, it’s still a conversation between two people. It’s a place to get quotes, not knowledge. When it becomes a conversation between one player and 100 people, though, the answers become more watered down than a flooded field. Rarely in a setting like that will coaches or players let you learn anything after the game is over. In fact, the only thing it’s become useful for is…
4. WORLD CUP OF BASKETBALL
After a bronze medal, no one at USA Basketball headquarters was feeling all that great about how the Athens Olympics went for the men. But that was the closing of the circle that began in 1992’s Barcelona Olympics, when the U.S. ran through the field like a Formula One car in the 100 meters. Once the world got done taking pictures with Magic, Michael and the Hall of Fame gang, they went back to trying to beat us. Nothing like the Olympics brings out that desire to smash another nation’s pride peacefully â€” and nothing like 2004’s comeuppance would have happened without the Games’ worldwide viewing audience from 1992. The World Cup of Basketball idea being floated by David Stern would give its sole ownership to the NBA and its teams (owners, really). Removing it from the Olympics might be the smarter financial move, but it won’t grow the game with everyone watching already interested in the sport. It’s greedy to say so, but hoops deserves the hundreds of millions who watch the Olympics worldwide. Remember the World Cup of Baseball, MLB’s answer to being dropped from the Olympics? No one else does, either.
Basketball is as much about nuance as it is flash. The ease of a Kyrie Irving crossover hides its unbelievable complexity. Try it at full speed like Irving and you’ll likely fall on your face. The best can make everything look easy. That’s where flopping is completely different. No matter how well it’s done, a flop never looks polished. Its awful appearance is tied to why athletes struggle with music, too. They’re athletes, not actors, and most of what’s being passed as a fake foul since Vlade Divac made it a staple in Sacramento wouldn’t pass the standard of being hired as an extra. Any fan knows basketball involves embellishing, but the flop has become so widespread and so blatant it violates every competitive juice. Where Divac started, Manu Ginobili continued the practice. Chris Bosh notoriously tried it once and turned a Carlos Boozer elbow from a foot away into an Internet hit. Some might call it an art. We’ll make a compromise and say it’s like modern art, the kind no one seems to understand.